Three Pastors I Most Admire

I’m not aware of it’s origin or initiator, but I think it is wonderful that October has been designated as “Pastor’s Appreciation Month.”

As pastors, my wife and I have been overwhelmingly blessed by the cards, gifts, and words of encouragement that have come from our New Hope family over the past several weeks, particularly as we recently celebrated twenty years of ministry at New Hope Worship Center!

As grateful as I am for the honor I have received during Pastor’s Appreciation Month, I am grateful for those whom I have had the privilege to call “Pastor” – three, in particular, each of whom profoundly and eternally impacted my life.

By far, the pastors who most influenced me are my parents, Jon and Helen Jenkins. I was a pastor’s kid – and thankful for the life and experiences we shared. Of the many life-lessons I learned from my parent-pastors, two are obvious to me.

When my dad and I went anywhere in our community, people knew him…and liked him. He was well respected because he was kind. Yes, sometimes he was corny (ha!) – but only to his teenage son. I learned from him that love, kindness, generosity, and respect are great ways to earn relational equity with people you hope to reach with Jesus’ love. Ministry is built on relationship.

As much as I learned from my dad, my personality more resembles my mom’s. I’m thankful for the disciplines and approach to life that I gained from her, but one particular thing is that she gave me a love for music and singing. As a child I was comforted by my mom’s voice. Her singing ministered to me in both parental and pastoral settings. She played the piano and sang – not for people, but to Jesus. She worshipped Jesus with her heart. Not only did I learn to harmonize by listening to her singing the alto part; more importantly, I learned to lift up my voice to sing unto The Lord with all of my heart.

Another set of pastors I hold in great honor are Arlen and Margaret Swinger. I knew them as “Uncle” and “Aunt” (she is my dad’s sister), until the day they hired me to join their staff, at which time they became my pastors. I had been familiar with their ministry, and respected them highly as pastors. But it was while serving alongside of them in ministry that I saw firsthand what “grace” really looked like. Theirs was not an easy tenure of ministry in those years. They encountered distrust and disrespect, yet composed themselves in Christ-like grace. And when The Lord directed them to another assignment in ministry, they supported my decision to remain where I believed God still wanted us to be. This year, as I celebrate twenty years of ministry at New Hope, I not only remember with gratitude that Uncle Arlen and Aunt Margaret brought us here in the first place, I also honor their example of how to have grace under fire.

The third couple I want to honor for Pastor’s Appreciation are the ones who remain my pastors to this day – Pastor Gary and Teri Clouse. Words simply can’t express the love, support, wisdom, and value they have brought to me as a pastor and a person. Pastor Gary believes in me. He challenges me. He listens to me. He is, quite honestly, the most generous person I know. Teri prays for us. She was like Mary Poppins to our kids. She encourages us with the Word, and great discernment.

Several years ago Pastor Gary and I were in his car, heading to their home, talking about life and ministry. Suddenly, from the back seat, my young son seemed to have an epiphany! He blurted out, “Ohhhh, I get it now! Pastor Gary is Obi-Wan Kenobi and you’re Luke Skywalker!” All I know is that I love learning from him.

These men and women of God have shaped my life. Without them I would not be who I am. They invested into my marriage, my family, my hopes, and my dreams.

Dad and Mom – thank you.
Uncle Arlen and Aunt Margaret – thank you.
Pastor Gary and Teri – thank you.

I am honored to call you my pastors.

Father, today I want to thank You for the pastors in my life. May Your peace guard their hearts and minds. May Your joy be their strength. May their families be healthy – spirit, soul, and body. May their needs be met with Your abundance. And may they know the love and gratitude I have for them, and the impact they have made in the world.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

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